One Does Not “Make” Time

I’ve talked about time management before in my blog posts, but there have been a few posts over on Facebook in both writing and narration groups about how people fit in their words around their daily commitments. Some are curious as to how others write while managing family, work, or school; a question came up on the narration groups about how people who didn’t narrate as their main job found the time to record.

I’ve weighed in on one of these conversations publicly, but I try not to add my two cents to these discussions every time they come up. Time management is a subject with which I am intimately familiar, and I see many of the same refrains in the threads of groups when the question of ‘where do I find the time’ comes up. Many of the responses include a mention of not having the time or never having the right time. While it would be wrong for me to make a blanket statement about every situation that comes up involving every person who seeks to write or narrate or do something more creative outside of a regular life, I can certainly offer what I tell my students and colleagues about time management and how I put it to good use in my own experience.

Yes, I teach time management and study strategies and goal setting. It’s part of my paycheck, and I try to practice what I preach. Definitely helps when it comes to classroom authenticity.

For the record, I am married to another adult professional who works 50 hours a week in the IT field and who is pursuing a master’s degree part-time. We have three lovely children who are in school and who have minimal extracurricular activities. I work full-time in academia and I am pursuing my doctorate part-time. I have recorded 21 titles at ACX, recorded and produced nine podcast novels, and have lent my voice to many short stories and fullcast endeavors. I’ve contributed to three of the Secret World Chronicle books, and I’ve written a handful of short stories and collaborative pieces over the years.

It’s never been about time management, though. Time is one of those fluid things that we can’t really manage or save for later; it’s not something to put in a box to give someone else, either. We can’t manage time, but we can select our priorities and choose how to devote our time to those priorities. We can say “this is important, and I choose to do this now ahead of anything else at this moment.” It’s not that the act itself is difficult, but repeating the act every day, for weeks and weeks, can be very challenging.

So, what does a normal day for me look like? A day when I’m in the middle of an audiobook project, have a full day of work and school, and other family duties?

  • 5:35AM – Alarm goes off. I get up, get my contact lenses in (we do not function in spectacles, dears), shower, and make coffee.
  • 5:50AM – Wake up kids (or double-check alarms). Check for clean clothes, lunches, and breakfast stuff. Assemble breakfast while making sure the other four people in the house are mobile and in some state of dress.
  • 6:00AM – Pour coffee, brush & braid kidlet hair, finish up breakfast prep. Sit and drink coffee while checking mail and recording schedule.
  • 6:30A-7:30A – Recording; spouse takes kids to school.
  • 7:30A – Change, head to dayjob.
  • 8A-5P – Dayjob. Lunch is set aside for editing and/or writing. I get in a few writing breaks during the day.
  • 5P-7P – Transit, dinner, homework assistance, chores. I cook dinner while the kids help with chores and do their homework in the kitchen.
  • 7P-8P – More chores and homework; laundry happens around this time, too. Depending upon the day, we all curl up and watch a TV show or sit around with our respective books. If it’s a really nice night, we’ll take some time for a bike ride. Kids clean up and are in bed by 8:30P.
  • 8P-10P(11P some nights) – Writing and homework, or writing and editing. I don’t go to sleep without my daily quota of words for the Magic Spreadsheet. If I finish early, we get to watch a show. During football season, I can write while a game is on. It’s a learned talent.

Of course, that’s not every day or the weekends… I don’t record every morning, and I’m at the point in my doctoral program where much of my dayjob research dovetails with my dissertation research. I do a lot of planning to give me time during the day to read, and teaching in higher education means that I have a lot of time to prepare during the summer months. I’m lucky in that my spouse helps me plan time on the weekends to record and edit, and he’s not opposed to my sitting out in the family room with my laptop, picking away at the next big story for my nightly wordcount.

Learning how to prioritize and picking away at the extraneous things takes practice; there are some things that I can’t pick up until school lessens, and there are some hobbies I can’t pursue when I’m in the middle of recording. I don’t game anymore; it’s not a luxury I can afford, especially with how I love to play for hours on end. I do make time to read, but I catch stories in fifteen minute sets while I’m making dinner or having someone else drive. Podcasts are in my ears while I work; my kids and I talk about school and concepts on our drive home. Some lunch hours are spent at the gym, and audio editing happens in the evening.

Priorities, though. It’s the priorities that drive the time, and knowing the times of day that best fit what needs to be done. For those who want to do more, I can offer this tiny bit of advice. Ask yourself, what are you willing to give up in order to make room for the bigger priority of writing and/or recording? Gaming? Watching a TV show or three? An hour of sleep? Your lunch time at your dayjob?

There’s no right answer, just the answer that best fits the greater goals and aspirations. I gave up gaming and sleep, because… well, because I love narrating stories and voice acting, and I want to get better. Getting better takes practice, practice takes time, and time… time takes prioritization.

So what’s your priority? What are you willing to do for it? Better yet, what’s not a priority, and are you willing to acknowledge it in favor of the dream?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 at 9:07 pm and is filed under geekmommy, time management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to “One Does Not “Make” Time”

  1. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin Says:

    I’m afraid life has forced me to pare down my priorities rather severely. However, since you asked… {Smile}

    My top priorities are the members of my household. That includes Mom, Dad, the cat, and I guess myself. That means trying to make sure they’re happy, and as healthy as feasible. The cat’s health is pretty good most of the time, but my parents are now in their eighties, so their energy and abilities aren’t what they were. I’m multiply handicapped with fragile health myself. I’ve had to learn that “no” means “cannot” as my parents age. {resigned smile}

    My next most important priority are my friends and family who live outside of the household. I think they have to be this high a priority. I’ve mentioned my health is fragile? It has a nasty habit of crashing badly enough to wreck whatever life I’ve built since the last time a few times a decade. In the worst times, my friends have to slide for a while, but by making them this high a priority, I’m at least able to keep the closer ones in the loop most of the time, so at least they know as much a I do about what the problem is and isn’t. {small smile}

    After that, reading, writing, playing recorders (bloc flutes) and whatever other hobbies take my fancy, with the realization that a lot is liable to go out the window in the next health crash. Even then, it’s mostly prioritized in light of what helps my parents, and my friends and other relatives. Reading is a high priority within these, both because it gives me things to talk about with a lot of my online friends, and because it can be continued during a lot of my health crashes. Writing… is mainly for the benefit of my friends. It’s how we keep in touch, and on a good day, it may be how I can entertain them as well. {smile} Playing recorders gives Dad and I chances to visit with friends and contribute to church when we can make it. {Smile}

    I hope bookbinding – which I enjoy but have only recently gotten back to – will help me provide Mom with more reading material. She needs large print books that meet national standards, and are on not-too-brown-with-age paper. We’ve barely filled three bookshelves, and we’re already running low on qualified ones by her favorite authors. However, I’ve found some in the public domain that I hope she’ll like. I can at least work with those. Beyond that… I’ll just have to see what copyright law and my limited skills with manipulating files allow. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  2. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin Says:

    P.S. Non-letter, non-post writing is not a particularly high priority right now. I hope that will change sooner or later… if not sooner, then when I run out of files my ethics and innate caution are comfortable converting to Large Print. There’d be no questions of authorial permission with those. {wink, Smile}


  3. Doc Coleman Says:

    I gave up gaming years ago in order to have more time for writing. At times I miss the games, but it does help to have the additional time to manage everything else and still get some words down.


  4. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin Says:

    By the way, my original plan this evening was to wash the dishes right after dinner, then rest a short while before washing my hair. Instead, Dad and I spent an hour an a half looking at hundreds of pictures in _Folk Instruments of the World_, a book he’d forgotten he owned. The pictures were nice to fairly amazing, and Dad’s comments about them were a real treat; he knows a lot about folk instruments and ethnic music. By the time we’d finished, I couldn’t wash my hair, so I just washed the dishes and hopped online for a shorter-than-usual session. {pause}

    I think this was time well-spent. I can always wash my hair tomorrow or the next day. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin